US Treasury Secretary Seeks Chinese Support for Iran Oil Sanctions

Posted January 11th, 2012 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner held talks with Chinese officials Wednesday on the U.S. push for new sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to end its controversial nuclear program. But China gave no public hint it is willing to go along with the U.S. measures, as Geithner wrapped up a two-day visit to Beijing.

Geithner met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who renewed calls for continued dialogue with Washington on an array of issues.

“I always believe that when it comes to China and the United States, dialogue works better than confrontation and cooperation works better than containment.”

U.S. officials said Geithner’s main task in Beijing was trying to convince China to go along with new U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil industry signed into U.S. law last month. The new penalties bar foreign banks that do business with Iran’s central bank – which processes most oil purchases in Iran – from access to U.S. financial markets.

A senior member of the Geithner entourage described the secretary’s mission as part of “the early stages of a broad, global diplomatic effort” to increase pressure on Tehran, which Washington suspects is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear objectives are peaceful.

For its part, Beijing says the sanctions are unilateral and predicts they will not be effective in gaining Iran’s cooperation.

Geithner also held talks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping that focused on an array of economic issues. The secretary later said he looked forward to building on the “very strong, cooperative relationship” with China on global economic growth.

“We’ve made substantial progress in improving expanding trade opportunities between our two countries over the last three years, and together we bear substantial responsibility for the healthy growth and development of the global economy.”

Geithner planned to go to Japan late Wednesday, where he is expected to seek Tokyo’s cooperation with the Iran sanctions.

Ahead of the U.S. mission, analysts said progress on new Iran sanctions seemed unlikely — in large part because China buys almost one-third of Iran’s oil exports. Demand for foreign oil in Japan — also a large Iranian oil consumer — jumped significantly last year as Tokyo moved to engineer dramatic cuts in nuclear energy production in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at a power plant northeast of Tokyo.